Gender Lines Blur as Norm Lewis, Stephanie J. Block, Robin De Jesus, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and More Go Backwards at BC/EFA Benefit

By Michael Gioia
25 Mar 2014

Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Photo by Matthew Blank
Powerful ballads about self-reflection and acceptance were offered by Stephanie J. Block (who delivered a show-stopping "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park With George early in the evening), Andrew Rannells (who sang "The Man That Got Away" from A Star Is Born), Jonathan Groff (who was accompanied by Mary-Mitchell Campbell — the evening's music supervisor, whom he blew a kiss to following his performance — for "I Got Lost in His Arms" from Annie Get Your Gun and "Goodnight My Someone" from The Music Man) and Kinky Boots Tony winner Billy Porter (who stopped the end of the evening with "And the World Goes Round" from New York, New York).

The Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots was also represented at the Hirschfeld (its current Broadway home) with a performance of the comic Cyndi Lauper tune "The History of Wrong Guys" by Newsies actor Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kinky Boots' own Andy Kelso.

"She totally blew the possibilities open because she's so zany, and she's nuts in the best possible way," said Keenan-Bolger of Kinky Boots' original star Annaleigh Ashford, who created the role of Lauren and earned a Tony nod for her "History of Wrong Guys." "I really got to play around with it, and I was not afraid to look like an idiot because she does it in the best, most graceful way."

Keenan-Bolger admitted, "I've never done a Broadway Backwards before. I've watched many a YouTube, but it was really cool to be a part of. I mean, the roster of names — just in that press release… I definitely had a crazy 'New York moment,' where I [thought], 'How do I get to be here? What have I done in my life that allows me to perform alongside these luminaries of theatre?'"

Another perfectly comedic moment was at the top of the show's second act, when two-time Tony Award nominee Robin De Jesus went in search of a "Prehistoric Man."

"I got to do a kick-ass number called 'Prehistoric Man.' It was a number that was added for Ann Miller in the movie version of On the Town, and I had a bevy of gorgeous men, whom I devoured and stripped, and they attacked me and threw me around," said De Jesus, who was literally tossed between six strapping Broadway dancers (Dave August, Josh Buscher, Andrew Cheng, Marty Lawson, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva and Adam Roberts) all the while singing, dancing and improvising ("I got time for that," he said mid-number, referencing YouTube sensation Sweet Brown and the beautiful boys at his side). "I lived the dream, and we raised bucket loads of money."

Creator and director Robert Bartley confirmed that over $423,000 was raised at this year's event, flawlessly conducted by music director Tim Rosser.